Lessons in Handfeeding Finches


For years I had been told that it was not possible to tame a finch. As wild birds, finches will always be flighty and afraid around humans. Finally, a few years ago I started hearing stories of people with tame, friendly finches, and I decided to try and tame one of my young Zebra Finches

I've never tried taming an adult bird.

I figured it would be best to start with a young finch. I preferred one that had not weaned yet so I could take over the role as "mother" and acclimate the bird to humans. I contacted a few people on the internet who had hand raised finches and learned how they accomplished raising these tiny birds.

I attempted to hand feed a couple of three-day-old Zebra chicks because they had been tossed from the nest. This failed miserably. Both babies died after a few days and I felt just terrible. I really am not sure why they died. It could have been a number of things; aspiration, bacterial infection, or the formula was not the right temperature.

My next attempt, which was nearly six months later, was with a 10-day-old Zebra chick. Her eyes had just opened when I started feeding her, and she ate very well for me right from the start.


I built my own brooder from stuff around the house. It would be nice to have a real brooder but they are very expensive, and I am only an enthusiastic hobbyist.

Material list:

• A bowl, small aquarium, or plastic carrying case. I have used a shoebox in the past with no problems.

• A heating pad (set on low).

• A small plastic bowl or Canary


• A washcloth.

• A small glass of water.

• Something to measure the temperature (keep the temp. around 98 degrees).

• Many Kleenex tissues and paper towels

Place the heating pad in the box, or around the shoe box so it covers the bottom and at least some of the sides. Add in the small bowl or Canary nest with a Kleenex tissues to help soak up the droppings. The small glass of water


is also kept inside in the makeshift incubator to add the much needed humidity. As the water evaporates add more. Place a thermometer in the incubator and place the lid gently on top but not closed tightly-it works best if there is a half inch opening on each side of the lid so air can circulate. Give it time to warm up and check the temperature. Keeping the temperature 96 to 99 degrees is best for young finches but should be slowly lowered as the chick grows feathers.

I used the wash cloth to adjust the height of the bowl/nest inside the brooder, this allowed me to more finely tune the temperature for the chick as it grew.

Hand Feeding Formula

Lafeber's Instant NutriStart hand feeding formula mixed with Gerber's Rice Cereal with Applesauce and water or Pedialyte worked the best for raising my finches. I used a small Oral Tipped Syringe for the feedings. Narrow or long tip made feeding the Zebra chick easier.

If you have a chick that is one to eight days of age, you may need to use the flat end of a flat tooth pick. The syringe will not work for a baby that small. It is best to just let the chick have one small drop at a time and swallow the food on its own.

Mix the ingredients into a thin yogurt like texture for younger chicks, thickening it slightly as the chick grows. Make fresh food for every feeding and clean the syringe thoroughly after every use. Also never force feed a chick, the risk of aspirating is too great.